Having seen the film, I purchased a copy of the Turing biography by Andrew Hodges, Alan Turing: The Enigma.
The film telescopes and combines events, Truth bending to both Art and Time. Hodges does nothing of the sort. A conceptual Turing Machine consists of an infinitely-long tape being read from and written to, or at least an effectively-unlimited tape: it's as long as needs to be to accomplish a given task. And thus with the biography: it's a massive book, as long as it needs be.
It is by no means dull; the cryptanalysis efforts at Bletchely Park (and elsewhere) didn't have the super-science scope of the Manhattan Project or the hard-edged engineering of wartime RADAR, advancing by leaps and bounds, but they were no less vital and equally at the leading edge of thought. Deeply engaged with his subject and a thorough scholar, Hodges provides the reader with both a ringside seat and the well-informed commentary to make sense of the action.
I'm at about the halfway point, give or take 55 pages of endnotes. The more I read, the more Turing's habits of thought remind me of the more-direct thinkers I have known. The annoying, crucial ability to see the essentials of a given situation while ignoring customary or merely ritual elements is a particular quirk of many engineers, scientists -- and programmers.
The Alan Turing Internet Scrapbook provides a series of glimpses of a man who, more than most others, was a geek's geek, a nerd's nerd, brilliant, unconventional and confidently askew. Not eccentricity for its own sake but an eccentricity that grew from a way of looking at and thinking about ideas and the world.
4 months ago